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Should You Create Content for Beginners?



Sometimes, I forget that the whole world hasn’t been blogging for years like I have.

I know that sounds incredibly arrogant, but I think we all get wrapped up in our own worlds at times. We forget that others haven’t had the same experiences that we’ve had. And, we forget that others might not understand some of the things we take for granted.

Last week, I wrote a post about how to incorporate content for all education levels on your blog. But maybe “how can I please everyone?” isn’t the right question to ask. Instead, maybe we should be asking is “should I be trying to please everyone?”, which is a question that would normally get a resounding, “NO!” from me. When talking about niche, the advice I’ve heard time and time again is that it makes sense to focus. It’s advice that resonates with me, advice that I’ve seen work (and others have too). I’ve even written about choosing a great niche.

Focusing on one niche, however, means that you write about a single topic, rather than writing about kite-surfing and your kids and fashion and tech news and politics all on one blog, which rarely works. What I’m wondering, is should you focus on one education level?

In some niches, this isn’t a question that needs to be asked. For example, on my food blog, education level isn’t a huge deal. Some beginners want to challenges themselves in the kitchen. And even the most experience chef can appreciate a quick and easy meal as long as it is tasty. But here on the NMX blog, there’s a bigger divide between the beginner and the pro. While I can create content for people at all experience levels, should I?

What about on your blog? Would you better serve a specific audience if you stop creating content for beginners? Or vice versa, if you stopped creating content for more advanced readers and instead focused just on beginners.

The Advantages of Reaching All Experience Levels

Here at the NMX blog, we do write for all experience levels, and there are several reasons we will be continuing to do this:

  • Reaching a Wide Customer Base: Our end game is to promote an event, where the target market is comprised of everyone from people who just started a blog yesterday to people who have been doing this for over a decade. So, our blog need to reflect this. Who is your target market?
  • Hooking the Newbies: Writing for all levels allows us to pull in people who are just getting started. They’ll find the beginner content helpful and know that they can grow with our blog by bookmarking the more advanced posts to read later.
  • Keeping People Interested: Speaking of growth, because we have content for all levels, people don’t outgrow our blog and move on to other blogs.
  • Enjoying Flexibility: Writing for all educational levels also allows us to have more flexibility to write about topics that inspire us. We also publish lots of guest posts from our speakers and community members, so covering a broad spectrum allows up to work more easily with people who are interested in contributing.
  • Teaching New Skills to “Experts”: It’s no secret that I don’t love the term “expert” – and while my disdain for this word comes mostly from people who call themselves experts when they’re not, I also don’t often use that term because in this new media world, everyone has something to learn. Someone who has been blogging for ten years might know NOTHING about Pinterest and learn something by one of my beginner posts on the topic.

I like that our blog and our conference has such a wide appeal, though it does pose a few challenges as I manage the schedule here on the NMX blog.

The Advantages of Creating Content for One Experience Level

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you might want to specialize by creating content for a specific experience level:

  • Defining Your Market: It’s easier to define exactly whom your blog is for when you specify an education level, and once you define your target market, you can more easily promote your content to those people.
  • Optimizing for Search Engines: If you’re creating content just for beginners (or pros), you can optimize your posts to be found by these people via search engines. That’s a bit harder to do when you’re creating content for a wider range of people.
  • Focusing: Sometimes, I feel scattered and unfocused when I’m creating content. When you’re blogging for a specific education level, it’s a little easier to stay organized.
  • Leading to Affiliate Products: Just because you only create content for one experience level doesn’t mean you can’t sell to everyone else. If a beginner lands on your advanced post, point them to a product perfect for beginners (or vice versa). You can make a lot of money with affiliate products if you’re smart about it!
  • Building a Community: Word spreads when your content is exactly what someone needs, so by specializing, you can often more easily build a community around your content. Even if people outgrow it, they’ll still promote you to others who could learn from your content.

So which choice is right for your blog? I think there’s a valid argument for both “for” and “against” in this case. It really depends on your specific goals and your niche.

Do you create content all experience levels on your blog? Or do you focus your content?

How to Create a Web Series with a Small Film Crew


small film crew

So you want to create a web series, but your budget is too low to hire a full film crew? No problem. That’s the great thing about creating video content for the online space: you don’t need much money to get started! It’s okay if you have a very small film crew if you know a few tricks to making the most of the helping hands you have on set.

Here are a three tips to help you get started creating web series or videos with a small film crew:

Tip #1: Use tricky camera shots to make your crew seem bigger.

First, you can make your crew seem much larger by using some special camera shots. Vimeo created a really great tutorial on this topic that goes over how to film a swipe cut and how to film a split screen shot (as well as how to use your iPhone for audio). Check it out:

[vimeo width=”500″ height=”281″]http://vimeo.com/62365230[/vimeo]

Tip #2: Work with multi-talented people.

That diva actress friend of your who refuses to touch a camera and would rather spend time in her dressing room than helping on set is probably not someone you want as part of your crew. When you’re getting started, looking for people who can jump from role to role easily. Partner with a director who can also act. Hire the make-up artist who has experience with post-production work. The more people are willing and able to do, the fewer total people you need on your crew, at least at first.

Tip #3: Write scripts with your limitations in mind.

If you know you have a very small crew, cut out the scene you wrote where a crowd is chasing the main character. Having limitations stinks, but you’ll get there. Keep your scripts simple to start, and think about how you can change your initial vision to make it work even if you only have a two- or three-person crew. Get creative! It can be pretty fun to overcome challenges if you think outside of the box.

What tips do you have for creating awesome content for your web series, even if your crew is tiny?

How to Give Your Audience Time to Digest Your Content


digesting content Last week, I posted my opinion that “blog when you have something to say” is bad advice. Unsurprising, a little debate about how often one should post is going on in the comments of that post. This is a debate that has raged for years and will likely continue for years to come.

But while people often talk about how often you should create content in order to keep readers engaged, what we should be talking about as well is how you should schedule content to avoid overwhelming your fans. When you publish too much content, your audience doesn’t always have time to digest it. So how can you ensure that you don’t post too often?

  • Stick to a schedule.

When people get overwhelmed by your content, it’s typically not because you’re posting too much, but rather that you’re posting too much unexpectedly. If you don’t post for two weeks and then suddenly post three times in a single day, your readers are thrown off kilter. Similarly, if you typically have three new podcast episodes per month and suddenly you have three in one week, your listeners probably haven’t set time aside to listen to all that content. Sometimes, extra content sneaks in; it is important to be timely when dealing with a news story. But most of the time, it’s important to set expectations with your readers by sticking to a general schedule. People subconsciously plan when they’ll digest your content, so you don’t want to mess up that plan they’ve made.

  • Mix up your content.

If you’re worried about posting too much content, think about the type of content you’re uploading. Maybe you do a video one day and an in-depth written piece the next. Maybe your 3,000 word post is surrounded by shorter pieces. Maybe your make a podcast available for download, but offer a transcript the next day. People like to digest different kinds of content, so mixing things up and giving them options makes your content more inviting than day after day of the same thing.

  • Set the bar high for quality.

Lastly, I think it’s important to challenge yourself to raise the bar on your content. People will make time to digest whatever brain food you set in front of them if that food tastes like it is from a five-star restaurant. I hope that if you’re reading this post you realize the importance of good quality, but we all get lazy sometimes. Push yourself to create better content more often. If you can do that, your audience won’t be overwhelmed; they’ll be begging for more.

Want to set the bar higher for yourself? Join us at NMX in Vegas this January to learn more about content creation online.

Creating Content that Sings: Three Questions Every Blogger, Podcaster, and Web Series Producer Should Ask


La-la-la-la-la. Are you warmed up? Don’t worry; my advice to you isn’t to record yourself singing for your fans. If you’re anything like me, doing that isn’t going to help your traffic! You can let your content sing, though. As you’re creating your blog posts, podcasts, or videos, ask yourself the following three questions:

Does My Content Have Rhythm?

Songs only sound pleasant if the rhythm makes sense. That’s why when you hear a cover of a song you love and the band is playing it too fast or too slow, it sounds weird. If you’re content can’t keep the beat, it’s going to sound equally weird.

What does having rhythm mean?

It means that your content flows. If you’re a podcaster or producing videos of any sort, it means you don’t have a lot of “ums”or awkward silences. If you’re a blogger, it means that your sentences flow well and that you have an interesting style of writing. It also means that your post is well-formatted for an online reader.

Typically, rhythm isn’t something you notice until it is “off.” Luckily, it’s pretty easy to fix rhythm with some editing. You just have to avoid being lazy. If you say to yourself, “This blog post/podcast/video is good enough,” it probably isn’t. Don’t settle for good enough, because your readers certainly won’t. Make a second, third, and sometimes even fourth (or more) pass through your content to ensure the rhythm is perfect.

Is My Content Hitting the Low Notes?

I once dated a bass player, and what he and any other bass player out there will tell you is that they’re the most under-appreciated member of a band…but you’ll really miss them if they leave. And they’re right. The low notes in a song give it that driving, well-rounded sound. Without, you’re left with a song that sounds flat. Low notes give music layers.

In terms of online content, “low notes” are the organization of your content. Content organization is definitely under-appreciated, but without it, your message will ultimately fall flat.

When I write a blog post, I usually create a short outline first. I start every post with an intro, split the body of my post into three or more subheadings and close the post with a final thought and call to action. Many podcasters do something similar – they open the same way every week, have segments, and then close things out. And of course, if you’re a web series producer, you probably have a storyboard for every episode.

Your content might not be quite as structured in your approach, and that’s okay. Not every blogger starts with an outline, for example. What is important is that you do introduce some organization so your message makes sense to the audience.

Otherwise, people will leave with one question in their mind: “What was the point of that?”

People need to be told why they should care and what they should do. If your content jumps around from one topic to the next without good organization of your points, it can be confusing and even irritating.

I like to think of my content as a super-micro-mini book with super-micro-mini chapters. When you close one chapter, you might refer back to it later, but you don’t continue to add more information about that topic. The chapters are self-contained for the most part, and they’re arranged in a way that makes sense to the reader. Your goal should be to make your message as clear as possible to your audience members. It’s much easier to keep their attention to the end that way.

Is My Content Hitting the High Notes?

Lastly, no great content is complete without some high notes. High notes are those little “extra somethings” that set you apart from others in your niche. It might be humor. It might be a shocking or profound statement. It might be a clever turn of the phrase. You don’t need high notes all the time. That would be piercing, and you definitely don’t want to figuratively cause your audience to cover their ears. No, you just need a sprinkling of high notes – enough to keep things interesting. Here are some examples of high notes:

In a recent post by Daniel Clark called, “7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Podcasting,” at one point, Daniel writes, “There are days… oh, there are days… when the last thing you want to do is fire up the microphone and start talking. ” Slipping in that little phrase, “oh, there are days…” adds a little humor to the post and gives it a personal touch.

The Bloggess’ post “The Man Deserves a Damn Medal,” illustrates the opposite – a high note by departing from humor. Her entire post, like most on her blog, is about her hilarious antics with her husband. But near the end of this post, after writing about how she surprised him by renting a sloth and kangaroo for their anniversary (yes, really), she posts a picture of her daughter laughing and gasping and writes, “Then we called Hailey over and she freaked out in the best possible way and screamed, ‘THERE IS A KANGAROO IN OUR LIVING ROOM’ and Victor and I both laughed at her glee and it was awesome. And it was everything a 16th wedding anniversary should be. At least in this house.” The touching love for their daughter that binds them is definitely a high note hidden in a hilarious post.

In “How to Make Your Site the Destination for Your Market” by Chris Garrett, this high note comes as a statistic from Hubspot. He could just tell you how important blogs are, but instead he shows you with some stats. Even better, Chris goes on to punctuate his post with important ideas, which he bold-faces so they stand out. When you read a post like Chris’, it is easy to pick out the high notes.

Break a Leg

What I think is most important about online content creation, however, is that you just do it. A singer can practice her scales all day, but unless she actually gets out there on stage and performs, what does it matter? So care about your rhythm, your low notes, and your high notes, but don’t be so worried that you never perform – publish your content – at all. With each performance, you will improve.

What Hooters Can Teach You About Online Content


No matter where you live in the world, you probably aren’t far from a Hooters. Known for it’s wings, beer, and girls in skimpy outfits, this restaurant is far from perfect, but Hooters does have a few things to teach us about creating online content. The next time you’re creating a blog post, podcast, video, or other online content, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Packaging matters.

Whether you like it or not, part of the Hooters brand is pretty girls in tight clothing. That’s why some people choose to frequent this restaurant. What Hooters realizes is that how you package your content (in this case, food) matters. Now, I’m not saying you have to post pictures of yourself in a low cut shirt or something to be successful online, but what you do need to do is consider how you’re presenting your content. If your site isn’t well-designed and your content isn’t formatted well, readers will get frustrated.

Keep in mind that what works well today in terms of design might not work well forever. Don’t be afraid to redesign your website as needed to better serve your readers. Don’t allow your content to get lost just because your site is poorly designed.

2. The wings and beer are just as important as the girls.

When I say “Hooters,” the first thing you probably think of is the waitresses. However, no matter how pretty the girls may be, if the food was consistently bad, people wouldn’t go back. Hooters has fans because they actually do have pretty good wings (I can confirm this; I’ve eaten at Hooters and the wings were great). So, while your design and formatting to matter, if the content isn’t awesome, readers won’t keep coming back for more.

3. Controversy is okay.

Hooters is definitely a controversial restaurant. I know lots of people who won’t eat there because they feel like it is demeaning to women – and that’s okay. But what this company has realized is that for every person who hates them, there’s another person who loves them. If they weren’t controversial, they’d be just another chain restaurant getting lost in the shuffle. A little controversy is okay with your content as well. If you’re dumbing down your message to appease everyone, you’re probably writing such generic content that it isn’t interesting to anyone. It’s okay to start debates and voice strong opinions, because while you may lose some readers, the fans that stay will love you even more.

4. Make your brand recognizable.

No matter where you go in the world, Hooters is Hooters. It’s the brown owl with bright orange eyes and the “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” t-shirts promoting whatever location you’ve visited. Part of good branding practices is ensuring that your fans can recognize you no matter where you go, and that extends to online content as well. Be consistent, using the same name, pictures, etc. on your social media accounts as you use on your home website. Just like Hooters, you want fans of your content to be able to find you and connect with you as much as possible!

Picture source: Beao via Wikimedia Commons.

Using Pop Culture to Influence Your Readers


Pop culture has a lot of influence over people. There’s a reason companies sign advertising contracts with sports stars and celebrities. Even if you know that Britney Spears or Michael Jordan or whomever is getting paid a boatload of money to endorse a product, in the back of your mind, perhaps subconsciously, it might still affect your purchasing habits. Johnny Depp likes a certain candy bar, so maybe you should try it – how can such a sexy man be wrong?

It's always a good day when I get to use a picture of Johnny Depp in a blog post. I think I'm going to start inserting them randomly when I'm having a bad day, even when I don't refer to him in a post.

Don’t forget that as a blogger, you can harness the same power to influence your readers. No, I’m not suggesting that you claim that Johnny Depp likes your blog (unless he honestly does – what a testimonial that would be!). I’m suggesting that you make reference to pop culture in what you post as a way to catch the reader’s attention, explain your point of view, and influence how your readers think about your topic of choice.

Stand Out in the Crowd

I blog about blogging here on the BlogWorld blog. Try saying that five times fast! Anyway, my niche is extremely crowded, with more blogs about blogging and social media popping up on a daily basis. A little star power can go a long way in helping catch the eyes of fatigued readers.

For example, yesterday, I wrote a post called What Say Yes to the Dress has Taught Me about Blogging. While the post didn’t go viral, at least by my standards, it did fairly well with traffic and retweets considering that I posted it at 9 PM EST on a Friday night, a time when I’ve found that most posts go unnoticed. New episodes of Say Yes to the Dress premiere on Friday nights, so I thought the post time made sense.

Now, most of the show’s fans are probably not bloggers, but some might be, and my spin on a blogging topic was a pattern interrupt, something Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett talked about at BlogWorld 2010. If it’s Friday night and you have a few minutes to kill, you’re probably sick of reading work-related posts. But if something can be entertaining as well? I don’t know about you, but that would pique my interest.

Allison Boyer: Queen of Metaphors

I would like to say that I’m the self-proclaimed queen of metaphors, but to be honest, more than one person has mentioned that I like using them. A lot. I think it’s an effective way to explain my point of view, especially to a wide range of people. Pop culture can help me do that.

For example, nearly everyone out there knows who Lady Gaga is. Last year, I wrote a set of posts about Lady Gaga and what she can teach bloggers. Not only are the title interesting enough to attract readers who are bored with traditional posts about blogging, but people can better understand my posts because they have a frame of reference.

You don’t have to stick to pop star-related metaphors either. For example, one of my past posts talked about something that lots of use do on a daily basis – order coffee. Ordering coffee is part of our culture, an even those it doesn’t have the star power that Lady Gaga has, it helped me explain an opinion I have about blogging.

When You Want Your Readers to Jump

Not every post has to have a strong call to action, but some of your posts undoubtedly will. One of my favorite things about blogging is the ability to influence readers. In a recent post I wrote for JobMonkey about the benefits of blogging, I quoted Lisa Barone, who said the best thing about blogging, to her, is “The ability to change the course of an important discussion.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Pop culture can help you do that. Remember what I said in the beginning about Johnny Depp influencing someone to buy a candy bar? The same is true of your blog – a little star power can help you change the minds of your readers. It can even help you sell products.

Now, unfortunately, few of us have a direct line to the Depp household, and I strongly recommend that you don’t say a celebrity likes your blog or product (unless they’ve okay’ed it, obviously)…but let’s think on a smaller level here. Pop culture doesn’t have to just mean movie stars or famous athletes. Who is popular in your niche? If you think about the pop culture of this smaller group, it’s a lot easier to find people who are willing to serve as a testimonial for you. These “stars” might not be household names in the traditional sense, but they are among your readers – and those are the people who are going to read your content or buy your products anyway, right?

Share Your Pop Culture-Influenced Content

So, throughout this post, I shared with you a few different posts I’ve written that reference pop culture as a way to catch the reader’s eye, explain my point, and influence reader. I wanted to give you the chance to do the same. Leave a comment with a link to your best post that references pop culture. How have you married pop culture and your niche?

Picture via Angela George

Twitter Content That Doesn’t Suck


Twitter is undoubtedly one of the best places to promote the blog posts you write. It can also be pretty fickle. The problem with Twitter is that content flies past users at an extremely fast rate, and for every awesome post being tweeted, there are ten (probably more, really) ridiculous retweets that aren’t interesting or helpful. In other words, there’s a lot of crap on Twitter, and your posts can easily be lost in the shuffle.

I don’t like people who write link bait for the sake of driving traffic. It should go without saying that you need quality content. Otherwise, any content that you drive to your blog won’t stick. People won’t trust you and likely won’t come back again.

But beyond writing great content, what can you do to increase the chance that your post will gain a little traction on Twitter or even go viral? Here are a few tips you can keep in mind:

  • Write a bangin’ headline.

This seems like a no-brainer, but keep in mind that your headline doens’t have to be something super shocking. It just has to be something that people want to share. In addition to writing a good headline, keep in mind that Twitter has a character limit. People forget this so often! Keep your titles on the shorter side so that people can add their own comments when retweeting. Remember, your initial tweet should be well under 140 characters so people can edit easily.

  • Reference people on Twitter within your post.

People like to share content when they’re involved. One of the things I do every week is attend #blogchat and discuss two or three of my favorite tweets made during that group discussion. Afterward, the people who I’ve mentioned in my posts always retweet the link, and most have friends who retweet it as well. You don’t have to specifically discuss things that have been said on Twitter, though. You can also just discuss general things a person has said on his or her blog or via a comment, forum post, etc. When you send out the tweet about your post, make sure to @ reply the person/people so they know they’ve been mentioned.

  • Create Tweet-able quotes.

I find it to be an ultimate success not when someone retweets one of my links but when they actually pull a quote from the post and tweet that with a link back. Good content should automatically create tweetable quotes, right? Not necessarily. The character limit comes into play, and if there’s not a definitive one-sentence statement that makes someone shout, “YES! EXACTLY!” when they read it, you aren’t writing a tweet-able post. It could be the most amazing post in the world, but that doesn’t mean there are tweet-able quotes in it.

  • Highlight interaction opportunities.

Twitter is all about interaction, so posts where this is highlighted tend to do better than non-interactive posts. Of course, every blog post is interactive (assuming you have comments turned on), but for example, if you ask for opinions from readers, like I’m about to do, it entices people to get involved, which is the spirit of Twitter in the first place. Strong opinion pieces do the same. If the post doesn’t lend itself well to comments, it likely won’t lend itself well to Twitter either, though this does vary depending on niche.

  • Be emotional.

Twitter posts that are extremely personal and emotion always spread well. That doesn’t mean you need to make your readers cry every time they log online. Hell, look at this post. I think it’s a pretty useful topic with a good headline, but it isn’t emotional. That’s okay. Sprinkling in emotional posts, however, is a great way to get a little Twitter love. Don’t be afraid to bare your soul, at least a little, when writing a post. Also, keep in mind that “emotional” doesn’t just mean sad. It could be heart-warming in a happy or funny way instead.

Before I turn the floor over to you guys for your best Twitter content-writing tips, I wanted to mention a few ways that I do think content can suck for Twitter. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad posts – they just are less likely to get Twitter traction. As you’re determining your editorial calendar or deciding what to write for the day, think about how you’re mixing in these types of posts.

  • News – Unless it’s breaking, people have probably already passed it around Twitter from larger sources, like the Huffington Post or TMZ. Even if you put your own spin on it by adding opinion, it’s hard for bloggers to get attention with a news story on Twitter.
  • Popular Topics – Twitter is all about sharing things that are original. If your blog post is about a topic that is super popular, it’s likely going to get lost in the conversation unless you’re saying something that is really unique. If your post is about a popular topic, put some extra oomph into creating an awesome headline that will attract clicks.
  • Scam-Related Topics – Now I know that no one here would ever scam their readers, but there are some pretty shady people on Twitter. I see a lot of “Gain 10,000 Twitter Followers Today!” and “The Easy Way to Make Six Figures With Your Blog!” going on. It’s become white noise for me somewhat. If you’re going to make a big claim and back it up with awesome content, that’s something I definitely want to read – but be careful with how you promote it. You want to stand out from the crowds of people making ridiculous claims that lead to posts full of BS.

A few other things I hate to see on Twitter:

  • “Please Retweet” with every single post (have a good reason if you ask for retweets)
  • Tweeting the same post over and over again throughout the day (two or three times is fine, but don’t clog my Twitter stream otherwise unless you have a really good reason)
  • Mentioning me or DMing me links even when the post has no more relevance to me than normal (if you mention me in it or write something similar to what I’ve recently written, great – otherwise, trust me to be a subscriber if I want notices when you post something new)

And of course, it bears saying it again: content that doesn’t deliver. Write awesome content. That always needs to be #1.

Your turn – what have you done to create content to specifically catch the eye of those on Twitter? What posts do you find to be hard to promote on Twitter? What things do you hate seeing on Twitter?

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